Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of Nissan. (Photo by Mao Shun/for China Daily)
Nissan's former chairman Carlos Ghosn was arrested on Thursday for a fourth time by Tokyo prosecutors investigating him for alleged financial misconduct.
Tokyo prosecutors said Ghosn's arrest was on suspicion he diverted $5 million from funds that were being relayed from a Nissan subsidiary to an overseas dealership. They said the money is suspected of going to a company controlled by Ghosn.
In a statement, Ghosn strongly declared his innocence.
"My arrest this morning is outrageous and arbitrary," Ghosn said in the statement.
"It is part of another attempt by some individuals at Nissan to silence me by misleading the prosecutors ... I am innocent of the groundless charges and accusations against me."
Ghosn, 65, was first arrested in November on charges of underreporting his compensation. He was rearrested twice in December, including on breach of trust charges.
The multiple arrests prolong detentions without trial and are an oft-criticized prosecution tactic in Japan's criminal justice system.
Ghosn's lawyer Junichiro Hironaka denounced the arrest, stressing that a rearrest during release on bail was unusual.
His release on bail in March was unusually quick for Japan, where long detentions without convictions are routine.
Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa expressed surprise about the arrest, although it had been rumored for days.
"So much can happen. I am shocked," he told reporters as he left his home.
Ghosn has said the allegations of under-reported compensation at Nissan involved payments that were never decided on or that were to be paid in the future.
He has also said Nissan never suffered losses for his personal investments and that allegedly dubious payments in Saudi Arabia were for legitimate services.
Ghosn had tweeted he would hold a news conference on April 11, where he would tell "the truth" about what was unfolding. A condition for his release on bail included not using the internet, but it is unclear if the authorities considered the tweet a technical violation.
"I am confident that if tried fairly, I will be vindicated," he said in the statement on Thursday. "I am determined that the truth will come out."
Ghosn was a star in the auto industry, having steered Nissan for two decades from the brink of bankruptcy to one of the largest groups in the industry, allied with Renault and smaller Japanese partner Mitsubishi Motors.
Nissan declined to comment on the criminal proceedings. It is a co-defendant on the under-reporting of compensation charges.
Hironaka said last week that at least two Nissan employees are cooperating with the prosecutors. Several other Nissan officials have been questioned by the prosecutors as part of the investigation.
The maker of the March subcompact, Leaf electric car and Infiniti luxury models is holding a shareholders' meeting this week to oust Ghosn from its board.
"Nissan's internal investigation has uncovered substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct," company spokesman Nicholas Maxfield said.
The maximum penalty upon conviction on charges of underreporting compensation and breach of trust is 15 years in prison.
It is unclear when Ghosn's trial may begin. Preparations for trials in Japan routinely take months.